I’m interested in the aftermath of expeditions. We all daydream about doing trips – that is fun. It’s pretty obvious what we enjoy about being away on adventures, the actual time spent out in the wild. But what people do not often think about is what happens after the journey is over. How does it feel to finish a journey? Does it guarantee happiness and satisfaction? It’s a huge topic and one I personally have spent many years pondering. I hope that this post will get a few thoughts stirring amongst anyone planning a big trip, or decompressing afterwards.
Charlie Walker has done lots of big adventures. I collared him the moment he finished cycling 43,000 miles round the world and asked him five quick questions. I then asked him the same questions after 6 months and a year to see how perspective and thoughts change over time.
- How does it feel to know you have cycled round the world?
- How does it feel now the biggest adventure of your life is over?
- What’s your plan for the next month?
- What impact has cycling round the world had on your life?
- What next? (My most-hated question!)
Here are his replies:
1. I haven’t really done that. I’ve sort of cycled on the world. But it feels as though I can now trivialise relatively smaller challenges or problems in life.
2. It feels surprisingly normal and just sort of fine really. I was increasingly ready to come home for the last few months and had plenty of time to try and get my head straight before arriving.
3. Take lots of showers, make old friends and find a way to earn some money.
4. It’s made me patient. Long periods of time are shorter than they used to be.
5. Write a book, stare at maps and daydream.
6 months later:
1. I feel certainly more confident than I used to. I now feel I can do pretty much anything I set my mind to. But it also feels a bit like a faint dream that seems sweeter the more faint it becomes.
2. I might cheekily circumvent that by saying that the longest adventure of my life is over but it may not prove my biggest. For the first few weeks after returning I was ecstatic to be back but then a couple of months of itchy-footedness and anticlimax set in. With a little more distance now, I feel happy, proud of myself and excited to see where it takes me.
3. Continue work on my first book when I can find time amongst my busy 9-6 job.
4. I hope I’m more worldly and patient but do get fed up of being introduced as “Charlie who cycled around the world”.
5. Develop my writing, give more talks at schools and the like while spinning the globe until I land on the next adventure idea.
A year after the trip was over:
1. Increasingly distant. It’s actually something I’m slightly embarrassed to talk about it social situations. Fearful of sounding like a broken record.
2. I feel that the longest adventure of my life is over but hopefully not the biggest, nor the most challenging.
4. I feel very confident but now struggle to feel fulfilled in everyday life. Adventure and “normality” – it’s a balance we’re all trying to strike.
5. Something chilly in Russia… but the plans are still a secret!
Thank you, Charlie, for your thoughts! If you’d like Charlie to speak at a school, or if you can help him get his book published, please drop him a line